Popular Open Space in Summit Park Under Contract for Conservation

Summit Park residents and others who have long enjoyed the steep terrain, natural vistas and old-school hiking vibe of the Doughnut Hole can rest a little easier. The owners of the 25-acre parcel off of Matterhorn Drive and Innsbruck Strasse have agreed to sell the property to Summit County to preserve the land for public use.

The parcel was listed last summer at $3M, but the sellers – a partnership group that includes both a local resident and people out of state, lowered that to $1.6M, in order to make it affordable for a conservation effort.

“This property is an amazing recreational thoroughfare for so many Park City residents,” said Michelle Eastman, a listing agent with Sotheby’s, who together with listing agent Brigid Flint represented the sellers. “It brings us so much joy to preserve more open lands and give back to our community with philanthropic participation from our sellers.”

Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy, helped facilitate the deal. She said her organization started getting calls last summer from concerned neighbors when the parcel went on the market.

“We are really grateful the sellers are willing to take less than their original asking price,” Fox said. “It’s a choice – we can save it for open space or else it gets developed.”

Under the purchase and sale agreement signed Jan 8, Summit County agreed to cover $1M. Now, the County and Summit Land Conservancy are working to come up with the rest of the money. Last week, Summit Land Conservancy submitted a $600,000 grant request to the federal Community Forests Program, a small program designed to help protected forested community parcels.

“We already have the doughnut. We were missing the hole,” said Chris Robinson, vice chair of the Summit County Council. “If we’re  successful, this will be a great way to put a capstone on upper Summit Park.”

Both Fox and Robinson cautioned that there is a significant ‘if.’ The County won’t find out until June whether it will receive any, all, or a portion of the grant it’s seeking. Fox said that while things are moving in a positive direction, residents should not yet consider the effort a completely done deal.

“Once people hear that the Summit Land Conservancy is stepping in, they think it’s done. It’s not done,” she said. “We’ve got stuff in play. It’s a work in progress.”

Fox said that if the grant is not funded in full, the County and the conservancy will go to the public to make up any shortfall. But without federal assistance, the shortfall would be $600,000 – by recent local standards not a particularly large amount to source for land conservation.

That could take some doing to raise sufficient funds, but “I don’t think we ever have regrets for buying open space,” Robinson said.

Melissa O’Brien, planning and legal affairs manager for Basin Recreation, said the parcel is already regularly used for hiking by many locals and for that reason alone will make a fitting addition to County property.

“People love the steep hiking, “ she said, adding that the terrain is not used for mountain biking due to the grade. She said that if Basic Rec someday manages the parcel, it would refine existing trails by adding switchbacks and increasing user-friendliness.

“Recreation is part of the mandate. It’s not open shape for open space’s sake,” she said. “This parcel works because it’s already used for hiking.”

O’Brien said the public can lose sight of differences in how lands are protected. While some organizations exist to protect watersheds, views and open space, the current deal is a public use conservation.

Speculation and worry about the fate of the Doughnut Hole has swirled for years, and Fox said she’s fielded calls from both residents afraid of the land being subdivided and others unhappy about increased auto traffic and crowds on trails, especially as people flocked to open spaces last summer.

She said she understands all of that, and urged people driving into others’ neighborhoods for recreation to “be sensitive that you’re in somebody’s neighborhood and you’re parking on somebody’s street.”

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